Duke football flips defensive transfer from Mike Elko and Texas A&M

After originally committing to Mike Elko and Texas A&M, graduate transfer Alex Howard has now announced his intention to play for the Blue Devils.
Youngstown State v Ohio State
Youngstown State v Ohio State / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages

When former Duke football head coach Mike Elko left Durham this offseason to take over at Texas A&M, it didn't seem like his orbit could collide with that of his previous program all that often. However, on Wednesday, the Blue Devils dipped into Elko's roster to pick up a veteran defender.

6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker Alex Howard announced on Wednesday that he will be playing his final season of college football for the Duke football program. This could be a sneaky-good move for Manny Diaz and Co.

Howard went through spring practices at Texas A&M but entered the portal two weeks ago. Now, he's found a new home in Durham.

Prior to his offseason stint in College Station, Texas, Howard played at Youngstown State. There he appeared in 38 games making 142 tackles with five sacks.

In 2023, Howard was credited with 76 stops. He also had 3.5 sacks. Both of those totals were good for career highs.

Last season, under Elko, Duke fielded a respectable defense. The Blue Devils averaged allowing 364.3 yards per game, good for No. 45 nationally.

However, there are lots of holes to fill on that side of the ball this year. That's where the program is counting on Diaz to work his magic.

According to GoDuke.com, "Since 2016, Diaz's defenses have been a force behind the line of scrimmage ranking in the top-10 nationally in tackles for loss each year at No. 2 in 2023 (8.4), No. 5 in 2022 (8.0 per game), No. 9 in 2021 (7.75), No. 4 in 2020 (8.6), No. 4 in 2019 (8.3), No. 1 in 2018 (10.5), No. 4 in 2017 (8.5) and No. 5 in 2016 (8.3)."

Howard could be an asset in the rebuilding of Duke's defense. He's a veteran presence who has been productive at a lower level of the game. Now, if he can get his game to translate to the ACC, he could be one of the offseason's most impactful additions.